You might be asking yourself, “I am 64, when should I apply for Medicare?”
Like most health insurance plans, Medicare has specific sign-up periods each year. The first one occurs when you’re about to turn 65 and lasts seven months. Then, there’s an annual enrollment period each year where you can evaluate, compare, and change your plan.
Some people are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and B when they are eligible, while others have to take specific steps to apply. If you’re wondering when to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can do so during any enrollment period.
Here’s what you need to know about when to enroll in Medicare.
If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll generally be enrolled in Medicare A and B automatically when you’re eligible. Keep in mind that you’ll receive Original Medicare — if you want a different plan, you’ll need to sign up for that during the enrollment period.
If you have to sign up manually, you’ll need to know when to enroll in Medicare. The answer to “When should I enroll in Medicare?” is based partly on which parts of Medicare you’re considering.
Medicare Part A and Part B are Original Medicare. Part A is hospital insurance, and Part B is medical coverage for doctor’s visits and other care. You should get Medicare Part A and B during the first enrollment period when you turn 65.
If you qualify for Medicare Part A premium-free, you can sign up for it anytime, regardless of enrollment periods. If you have to pay for Part A, you need to sign up as soon as you are initially eligible. If you receive Social Security payments, you’ll automatically be enrolled during the timeframe that you turn 65.
In general, if you are receiving Social Security payments, you will also be automatically enrolled in Part B. However, if you are not getting those payments, you will need to sign up for Medicare Part B if you want it during the first enrollment period around your 65th birthday. If you don’t, you could face a late-enrollment penalty.
You can choose to defer enrollment in Medicare Part B if you’re currently employed and have a group health insurance plan. When your group insurance plan ends, you’ll be granted a special enrollment period to sign up for Medicare Part B without a penalty.
Once your initial enrollment time frame is over, you can sign up for Part B or change your Medicare plan only between January 1 and March 31 each year.
Medicare Part C is known as Medicare Advantage. It is a full replacement plan for Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and often includes additional benefits, like vision, hearing, dental, and prescription drugs.
Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage. You can buy a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan to go with Original Medicare if you choose not to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.
You can only sign up for Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plans during regular enrollment periods. That includes the seven months around your 65th birthday and during the annual open enrollment that runs from Oct 15 - December 7 of each year. Those enrolled in Medicare Advantage can also make changes during Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment between January 1 - March 31 of each year.
Sometimes you can qualify for special enrollment periods, such as if you lose other health coverage, return from overseas, or move outside the coverage area of your current plan.
Understanding when to apply for Medicare is important, but you should also learn about the various options. We’re here to help make things easier. Talk to a licensed health insurance agent and compare plans to make the right choice for your needs!